Thursday, December 15, 2011

Peppermint Bark

:209/365: I've been on a roll with Christmas treats this year. Peppermint Bark is always on the menu at our house in December. I mean, seriously. It's the easiest thing to make in the whole world. Never, ever buy it. We actually saw it in a tiny box at the store today for $5.99. You can get a box of candy canes for 99 cents and a bag of chocolate chips for less than two dollars. And I'm guessing you can make at least twice (if not three times) as much as there was in the box.

  • Candy canes (or peppermint candies). I've actually seen this with other hard candies, like butterscotch and Lifesavers, but I'm sort of a traditional gal. 
  • A bag of chocolate chips. I go with Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet, but Harrison loves milk chocolate. And while I'm not a fan of white chocolate, that is also an option. 

  • This is also your chance to be creative. Basically anything that will stick in melted chocolate (and seriously, what doesn't?), you can add. Some suggestions: nuts, cookies, candies, cereal, marshmallows, crystallized ginger, crystallized citrus peel, chilies, dried fruit, pretzels, caramels, chips. I'm thinking....pretzels and toasted pecans in dark chocolate. Or what about dried cherries and chilies in bittersweet? Or crystallized ginger and almonds in milk. Sigh. So much bark, so little time.

  • Start by melting the chocolate. This is best done over very low heat in a heavy pot, but you can use the microwave. Just be sure to monitor it carefully. It'll scorch if you walk away.
  • Unwrap the candies and put them all in a heavy ziploc bag. I let Harrison do this part. He loves it. Then just start bashing them with a rolling pin or even a hammer. I usually have him do this on a towel to protect the counter. 
  • Spread the melted chocolate on a parchment lined baking sheet. You can use Silpat, but it gets messy. 
  • Sprinkle with the crunched up peppermint candy. Then using a metal spatula, press the candy into the melted chocolate. 
  • Let cool.
  • Then break it up into pieces and eat.
Options to consider: Different chocolates or even a marbling of a couple of chocolates would be yummy. You might also try to add nuts or dried fruit. I've seen white chocolate, almond and dried cranberry bark. Another good one might include crystallized ginger or dried chili peppers. You can really use whatever would stick to the chocolate -- sprinkles or sugar decorations might be fun. And seriously -- M&M's or chocolate covered nuts or chunks of other candy bars or cookies or pretzels or chips. Yum.

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